Date of Award
Master of Philosophy (School of Philosophy and Theology)
Schools and Centres
Philosophy and Theology
Dr Richard Hamilton
Professor Philip Matthews
4E Cognition is a fairly new field of study within cognitive science, cognitive psychology, and cognitive philosophy. The various approaches to cognition namely embodied, embedded, extended and enacted cognition; provide multi-faceted approaches to cognition. A common claim of these approaches is that cognition may have various contributing factors such as the role of the brain, body and its environments. Thus challenges the traditional idea that cognition exists purely mentally within the confines of the brain and skull. However, even within the 4E Cognition family, some nuanced arguments are hotly debated, particularly among the proponents of Embedded Theories (EmT) and Extended Theories (ExT). The main area of dispute centres on the idea of what process(es) can be classified as ‘cognitive’. Both enterprises try to answer the pertinent question regarding what makes a cognitive state the process of a particularly cognitive kind. In other words, both theories try to answer what and where the mark of the cognitive is. EmT argues that a particular context, situation, or an environment where the body is located shapes one’s cognition. The environment, context, or situation constitutes the mark of the cognitive. However, although the body is deeply embedded with the surrounding environment, the processes that can be considered ‘cognitive’ remain within the domain of the neural system. ExT on the other hand, through the coupling principle, argues that if external resources have the same functionality with internal processes located inside the brain, then these external processes can be considered ‘cognitive’ processes. For ExT, cognition extends to external resources if and only if, extracranial resources have the same functionality as internal or neural processes inside the brain and the skull. Although, ExT and EmT vary to some degree on what constitutes the mark of cognition, they agree on where cognition predominantly resides – both agree that it is very much a “heady” affair! Still, both ExT and EmT are susceptible to the assumption that the only processes that can be classified as ‘cognitive’ processes are the internal or neural processes. However, this does not tell us how ‘cognition’ comes to be, nor does it answer the question of what makes a cognitive state the process of a particularly cognitive kind. My main aim in this thesis is to provide a possible theory, an alternative theory that can tease out the mark of the cognitive we need to settle the dispute between EmT and ExT. The first commitment we require from this theory is that it needs to renounce any knowledge claim assumption that ‘cognition’ has an a priori location inside the head. Therefore, this thesis will propose a theory that will not assume ‘cognition’ as mainly a “heady” affair, it will instead, start from the assumption that 5 | P a g e ‘cognition’ has no a priori location. Drawing from Lambros Malafouris’ framework of Material Engagement Theory (MET) seen through the lens of Extensive Enactivism (EE), I will argue that this is the theory required to tease out the mark of cognition. In addition, by giving special attention to the phenomenological perception of material things, which is that things matter and should be taken seriously since the default mode of our place in the world is ours always, and already involved in habitual engagement with things or technologies in the world. In that sense, our cognitive engagement with external things do not just scaffold or extend cognition, but rather, it is radically embodied and dynamically conflated – incorporating our brains, bodies, things, technologies, and environments. These conglomeration of contributing factors to our cognitive processes, I believe, form the mark of cognition.
Quirit, I. (2021). Material Engagement Theory and Extensive Enactivism Within the 4E Cognitive Debate: A Phenomenological Approach to Material Agency and Application to Current Technology (Master of Philosophy (School of Philosophy and Theology)). University of Notre Dame Australia. https://researchonline.nd.edu.au/theses/355